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In Iran, death by poison salad and a hair-cream overdose

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ISTANBUL, TURKEY — Prosecutors in Iran says they don’t yet know whether the suspicious death of a doctor – Ramin Pourandarjan – was murder or suicide. But they know the cause: a poisoned salad.

At least, that's the latest in a case where authorities have already made a number of competing claims, from a car crash that never happened to suicide in a courthouse.

A poisoned salad might sound unlikely, but stranger causes of death have been known in Iranian political circles.

The political and cultural war between hard-line conservatives and more moderate reformists has produced similar surprises – notably in 1999, when a key Iranian intelligence official supposedly committed suicide by drinking hair removal cream. Yes, that's the official line.

Why was Dr. Pourandarjani's salad laced with poison?

Ramin Pourandarjani was a 26-year-old doctor working at Iran’s Kahrizak detention facility. He witnessed abuses of Iranians taken there in the violent aftermath of Iran’s June presidential election. He then testified about the abusive treatment to a parliamentary committee. The facility was finally closed down, but not before former detainees said rape and torture were common practice.

Dr. Pourandarjani, as part of his military service, was assigned to the facility. He had seen the badly beaten son of the adviser of one of Iran’s conservative candidates, and one of the most high-profile detainees. ”


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